By now you may very well have heard Kevin Rudd’s response to a question from a Christian pastor on ABC’s Q&A last night.
Here it is
Elsewhere Sandy Grant has written an excellent response to Rudd’s ridiculous claim that “the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition” (2:26 in the video above). I won’t write more about that except to quote Sandy:
I am appalled at how this national leader, publicly claiming “an informed conscience and a Christian conscience”, misrepresented the Holy Book of the faith he confesses, on its teaching on one matter (slavery) to avoid its teaching on another matter (of marriage), in order to justify his abandonment of that biblical teaching.
It is naïve in the extreme—just a poor reading strategy—to assume an endorsement of an institution or activity, simply because it is recorded without particular narrative assessment at one point, or because it is regulated—for what might be called harm-minimisation, or an ethic of retrieval—at another point.
Let’s be clear. Even a cursory reading of the Bible would tell you it never says slavery is a “natural condition”. Never. Not once.
But I want to focus on something else. Something I think Christians ought to reflect upon as actually more telling than Rudd’s comments on a specific moral issue but which actually go a long way towards explaining why he may have taken this position. It comes just a little later at exactly 3 minutes in the video. Rudd says,
What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament? It is one of universal love. Loving your fellow man.
Here, and not with his endorsement of “gay marriage” do we actually see Rudd’s rejection of Christianity – or possibly evidence he never really understood it.
How would you answer the question,
What is the fundamental principle of the New Testament?
For Rudd it’s about how we treat one another which he reduces down further to a principle of “universal love”.
The correct answer, of course, is radically different. The right response to the question “what is the fundamental principle of the New Testament?” is the far more shocking and radical
Jesus is the Christ, the Lord.
The difference between these two answers is the vast gulf between man-centred religion and true religion. It is the difference, of course, that Jesus Himself makes when asked a very similar question:
Matt. 22:35 One of [the Pharisees], an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
There is a greater command, a great obligation on humanity than how we treat each other; how we respond to God Himself. This seemed to be off the radar for Rudd as he reduced Christianity’s essence to morality.
The point I’m making is not that he got the morality wrong. The real tragedy is that he went for morality in the first place thus actually missing the “fundamental principle” of the New Testament and, indeed, the whole Bible.
Of course once who God is and how we respond to Him is not the main question we’re asking then we will naturally become more and more focussed on each other to the point where the genuine blasphemy of dismissing God is replaced with a human-centred ersatz-blasphemy of “not loving” one another (ie, not affirming each other). The great flaw here is that God Himself defines what love looks like, not simply in a general attitude to one another but also in the specifics of behaviour.
Pastor Matt Prater pointed out that Jesus speaks specifically about marriage (Matt. 19; Mark 10) and specifically endorsed the model of lifelong heterosexual monogamy. Rudd effectively dismissed it. We ended up with the self-proclaimed follower of Jesus dismissing Jesus’ Lordship in this one area in favour of an ethic that came from a paradigm that essentially sidelined God while claiming to speak on His behalf. And when God’s actual words are relegated below what we are claiming to be “godly” principles then the reality is that they’re not godly at all. They’re the opposite – they’re sinful.
That was the tragedy of last night. Rudd turned Christianity into a morality that had no substantive foundation in Jesus’ divine Lordship. It was a Christless Christianity which is no Christianity at all. That is a fearful place to be in for someone who claims that Jesus is Lord.
It does make you stop and think, though.
In discussions like this we Christians are in danger of actually ending up making the same mistake. We understand that God has spoken on many things, including sexual ethics, but there is the risk that we sound like we are ourselves simply pushing morality. Let’s make sure we don’t do that. Let’s make sure that in any forum from speaking to one person to the many nobody would be in any doubt that what drives us, what motivates us, what gets us up in the morning and guides our decisions throughout the day is not morality, but Jesus who is Lord. If Kevin meant to represent what Christianity was he failed spectacularly, although he may very well have demonstrated what his idea of Christianity is and we can see the consequences of that plainly. Let’s not do the same.